On nanotechnology, experts see more risks than public
2007 11 28

By Marlowe Hood | news.yahoo.com


In a surprising reversal of roles, nanotechnology scientists outrival the general public in seeing a cause for concern in some aspects of their work, according to a study published Sunday.

Nanotechnology -- the science of making things measured in units 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair -- holds spectacular promise in virtually every sector.

Hundreds of consumer products already contain nano materials, most of which are cosmetics, sunscreens and cleaning products with microscopic particles.

But this is the only first step in what promoters of nano say is a revolution whose impact will be outsized compared to the technology's tiny scale.

In medicine, potential applications range from in-body diagnostic devices to tissue engineering to pinpoint drug delivery.

Nanomaterials far lighter and stronger than anything in use today could revolutionise the auto and airplane industries, and parallel developments are underway for robotics, computers, clothing, energy storage and air purification.

Two surveys, conducted among 363 nanotechnology scientists and engineers and among 1,015 US adults, find an intriguing contrast in attitudes about this fast-moving yet untested technology.

The average Joe and Jane are more worried than the experts that nano will cause job losses, an arms race and a loss of privacy, according to the surveys published on Sunday in Nature.

The scientists, unsurprisingly, say their work will lead to major breakthroughs in medicine, environmental cleanup and national defence.

But they are also significantly more concerned than the public about the risk of more pollution and unforeseen health problems from nano.

The authors of the study, led by Dietram Scheufele of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, chalk up this gap in viewpoints to two things.

One is that scientists have already launched a debate among themselves about nano-related risks, and lament a lack of research in this field. At the same time, the media promote the potential benefits of nano and downplay the risk aspect, thus giving a distorted view to the public.

Researchers looking at nano risks are focussing on any effect on health from minute particles that are breathed in to the lungs or from putative nano-robots that would be inserted into the body to repair damaged tissue. Questions have also been raised as to whether nano materials could be toxic, for health and the environment.

"The Nano story is one of very slow and rather weak regulatory responses," commented Nigel Cameron, head of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future at the Illinois Institute of Technology and an expert on nanotechnology.

"Public and political awareness of the technology -- even though we have been talking about it for some time -- is amazingly low," he said in an interview with AFP.

In the past, the arrival of new technologies such as nuclear power or genetically-modified organisms are typically greeted with public enthusiasm followed by disquiet when an accident happens or other risks become apparent.

Such backlashes have had a crippling effect in some countries, prompting a freeze or pullout from nuclear power or a moratorium on genetically-engineered crops.

By addressing the risks before their technology widely enters the public domain, nano experts hope to forestall this backward swing of the pendulum.

"Nanotechnology may... be the first emerging technology for which scientists may have to explain to the public why they should be more rather than less concerned about some potential risks," said Scheufele.

Article from:



Related Articles
Bring on the nanobots, and we will live long and prosper
Chips push through nano-barrier
The Electron, Nanotechnology, and Solar Power
Douglas Mulhall - Nanotechnology, Our Molecular Future (Audio)
Nano-propellers sent for a spin
Antique engines inspire nano chip
Nanogenerator provides continuous power by harvesting energy from the environment
Nanotechnology Risks Unknown
The next big bang: Man meets machine
Better... Stronger... Faster... the engineered human
Physicists have 'solved' mystery of levitation
Berkeley Physicists Make a Radio 10,000 Times Thinner Than a Human Hair
South African Solar Research Eclipses Rest of the World
Aubrey de Grey, Artificial Intelligence, Singularity, Longevity and the Holy Grail
The Creation of Smarter Than Human Intelligence
Maryland's Prometheus
Patent sought on 'synthetic life'
'Darth Venter' (J. Craig Venter) & The Archon Genomics X Prize
The Invincible Man
Lifespan link to antidepressant drug


Latest News from our Front Page

Sweden Recognizes Palestinian State; Israel Upset
2014 10 31
Sweden on Thursday became the biggest Western European country to recognize a Palestinian state, prompting a strong protest from Israel, which swiftly withdrew its ambassador from Stockholm. The move by Sweden’s new left-leaning government reflects growing international impatience with Israel’s nearly half-century control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip. It also comes during increased ...
Fed-Backed Study: How to Brainwash Public into Fearing “Climate Change” Like Ebola
2014 10 31
$84K study seeks ways to make public fear "climate change and overpopulation" The National Science Foundation is funding a study to determine how to brainwash the public into fearing “climate change and overpopulation” as if they were Ebola. The NSF awarded an $84,000 grant to researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo yesterday to figure out how to make ...
Brain decoder can eavesdrop on your inner voice
2014 10 31
As you read this, your neurons are firing – that brain activity can now be decoded to reveal the silent words in your head TALKING to yourself used to be a strictly private pastime. That’s no longer the case – researchers have eavesdropped on our internal monologue for the first time. The achievement is a step towards helping people who cannot ...
6 Million Lies
2014 10 30
“If you do not specify and confront real issues, what you say will surely obscure them. If you do not alarm anyone morally, you yourself remain morally asleep. If you do not embody controversy, what you say will be an acceptance of the drift of the coming hell.” C Wright Mills. I need to share information I have discovered ...
Google’s New Computer With Human-Like Learning Abilities Will Program Itself
2014 10 30
In college, it wasn’t rare to hear a verbal battle regarding artificial intelligence erupt between my friends studying neuroscience and my friends studying computer science. One rather outrageous fellow would mention the possibility of a computer takeover, and off they went. The neuroscience-savvy would awe at the potential of such hybrid technology as the CS majors argued we have nothing to ...
More News »